As we age, we’re told to expect certain challenges. Our reflexes may slow down, our eyesight may worsen, and our balance may feel a bit off-kilter. We might deal with aches and pains, limited range of motion, and overall fatigue.
Although some of these developments may be relatively commonplace, that doesn’t mean we have to accept them as inevitable. The more effort we put into keeping ourselves healthy and active, the better off we’ll be.
Following a nutritious diet to nourish our bodies is one of the best things we can do as we age. Let’s take a closer look at why it’s so important for seniors to follow a healthy diet and how to easily add nutritious elements into every meal for a happier and longer life.
Why Seniors Need Healthy Eating Tips
The reality is that virtually everyone could benefit from a healthier diet. But it’s especially important for seniors to adopt or maintain these healthy eating habits.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will almost double from 52 million to 95 million between 2018 and 2060. And while it’s good news that the average life expectancy is up, many seniors may end up living longer while dealing with additional health issues.
For example, PRB cites that obesity rates among Americans aged 60 and older have increased in recent years; between 2015 and 2016, around 41% of older Americans were considered obese. Since we know that obesity can exacerbate a number of other health problems (leading to everything from increased healthcare costs to lowered quality of life), maintaining a healthy weight becomes even more important as we age.
The demand for elder care is also on the rise, partially thanks to the growing number of elderly folks with dementia. Estimates reveal that the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease could more than double by 2050, representing a potential 13.8 million seniors with this cognitive condition. Studies suggest that certain healthy diets (like the Mediterranean diet) can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s development by up to 53%, improve verbal memory, and slow down overall cognitive decline.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and obesity can have a number of contributing factors, we do know that an individual’s lifestyle and regular habits can have a substantial impact on these and other medical conditions.
Through healthy eating, seniors may be able to avoid concerns like heart disease or type 2 diabetes, prevent falls by reducing muscle and bone loss, maintain energy, and stay more physically active – all of which can translate to better overall health and well-being.
Our Favorite Healthy Eating Tips For Seniors
Now that it’s clear why seniors should eat nutritious meals, you may be wondering how to accomplish that goal.
It’s not always easy to follow a healthy eating plan, especially if you’re living on a fixed income, have difficulty getting around on your own, or aren’t cooking for yourself as frequently.
However, it’s possible to eat nutritiously – and deliciously – even with these challenges. Here are just a few simple and effective ways to start incorporating healthy eating tips into your or your loved one’s routine.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: We could all use more H2O, but seniors should become even more mindful of their hydration needs. Your sense of thirst typically declines as you get older, which means it’s more difficult to discern when you’re dehydrated. You’ll want to drink plenty of water or other liquids (like low-fat milk or fortified dairy alternatives, low-sodium soup, or the occasional 100% juice) throughout the day.
- Eat Plenty of Fresh Produce: Fresh fruits and veggies can keep you hydrated as well as provide you with tons of great nutrients. Since it’s a good idea to reduce refined sugar consumption as you age, many whole fruits will provide natural sweetness, as well as fiber and vitamins. Aim to add green leafy vegetables, berries, beans, and other produce staples to your meals several times per week.
- Embrace Meal Planning: Planning out your meals in advance can make grocery trips less overwhelming and help you reduce food waste. What’s more, you’ll be less likely to make impulsive (and less healthy) choices out of sheer hunger. While it’s fine to maintain some flexibility, have a basic framework for your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners throughout the week so you know what you have to work with. You can then make the best use of the ingredients in your fridge or pantry. If you’re the caregiver for an older loved one, you can prepare meals in advance and even freeze them for whenever they’re needed.
- Rethink Your Seasonings and Preparations: Cooking and baking with butter can make things taste scrumptious, but it’s best to limit your butter or margarine consumption as much as possible. Consider swapping butter for healthy oils (like olive oil or avocado oil) in your recipes. You can also go the vegan route and substitute in applesauce, Greek yogurt, mashed bananas, or pureed pumpkin in baked goods. Instead of seasoning with salt, use fresh herbs and spices to provide flavor. If you’re using a dried seasoning, make sure to limit your sodium intake.
The reality is that you may not have to completely overhaul your diet. After all, you should still be able to enjoy what you eat! By making simple swaps and incremental changes, you may feel a massive difference. When you commit to healthy eating in the present, you can protect your health in the future.
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